Background: Ventricular assist devices are effective in severe end-stage cardiac failure but outcomes remain poor in critically ill patients. Cheaper and less invasive short-term devices have been used in this setting. We report our experience with the Levitronix CentriMag short-term ventricular assist device as a potential bridge prior to deciding whether a more expensive device should be used or whether transplantation should be undertaken.
Methods: Since August 2003, 16 moribund patients (14 males; age 32.7 +/- 14.9 [range 16 to 62] years) have been supported with the CentriMag device as a "bridge to decision." Twelve patients had an intra-aortic balloon pump pre-operatively, 13 had multi-organ failure, 11 had septic shock, and in 5 patients the neurologic status was uncertain at the time of insertion of the device.
Results: Operative mortality was 18.7% (3 patients). Seven patients (43.7%) were reoperated for bleeding. The mean support duration was 46.9 +/- 32.3 (range 6 to 111) days. There were 2 late deaths during Levitronix utilization. Follow-up was 12.8 +/- 12.5 (range 0.6 to 43) months. Eleven patients (68.7%) are currently alive and well: 2 patients recovered and had the Levitronix device explanted; 6 patients were upgraded to a long-term device; and 3 patients were bridged directly to transplantation. The actuarial survival at 1, 6 and 12 months was 85.7%, 64.9% and 64.9%, respectively. There were no instances of device failure.
Conclusions: The Levitronix device is effective in rescuing critically ill "moribund" patients and can provide an opportunity for low-cost support and optimization of their condition prior to deciding whether a more expensive device should be placed or if transplantation should be undertaken. Better candidate selection for further procedures can then be allowed.